Well, it finally happened. Donald J. Trump finally got elected President, to the surprise of literally everyone on the planet, and now it’s just a matter of time before fire rains down upon us signaling the end of mankind. It was a good run folks, but I guess it’s time for all of us to start waving bye bye to water, retirement savings, and Taco Bell. How could this have happened? All the warning signs were there that this would be a bad idea, maybe even worse than the time hockey met its equivalent in the category of worst idea ever promoted by Fox Television. You see, when right wing Fox feared half of America into flocking to Trump’s side, it was not the first time it was at least partly responsible for unleashing an unholy abomination upon the world. No, I’m not talking about The Chevy Chase Show. I’m talking about a sports abomination. Back when Fox introduced its worst sports idea ever, it was almost assured it was going to be heavily-ridiculed, but Fox went ahead with it anyway and promoted the crap out of it. When everyone saw it, jaws just dropped in amazement that this actually got approved in the first place. I proudly present you the latest induction into the Hockey Hall of Shame, the FoxTrax puck.
Let me set the scene for you. It’s 1996, and you’ve just witnessed Dennis Franz flash his butt at you for the seventeenth time this year. The TV goes to a commercial and you’re flipping the channels in your man cave when all of a sudden a hockey game appears on the screen. Probably the Montreal something-or-others taking on the Colorado Rockies? Avalanche? Nuggets? Who knows. Anyway, the game looks really neat, really flashy and fast, but man is it hard following that black dot on the white surface. It makes you wonder how you’ve managed to learn to read with all those black letters on white paper. You don’t think much of it until a few months later as Jerry and Kramer start arguing about the legality of sneaking a café latte into a movie theatre, and you decide to flip the channel to the 1996 NHL All-Star Game on Fox. You remember having seen this strange game being played on ice, but there’s something different this time. It’s got a bit more zing to it, more zap, pizzazz, what have you. Is that a… laser beam? Yes, that would be the FoxTrax puck, also known as the Glow Puck.
In 1994, the NHL gave Fox a contract to broadcast games in the United States. The head of Fox Sports, David Hill, thought that viewers unfamiliar with the sport would be better able to follow the puck if Halley’s Comet was trailing behind it when it was shot. When the puck was slowly skidding along the ice, it would just be surrounded by a blue glow. Kind of like when you play NHL ’94 and your player has an indicator underneath him, only now it’s the puck that has a little visual aid. So a puck was cut in half, and a circuit board with a shock sensor and infrared emitters were inserted inside. The puck would look and feel exactly like a normal puck except when someone hit it hard enough, a laser would magically appear on screen.
Well, Rupert Murdoch, the head of Fox, thought the idea would be jolly good fun, and he had no problem approving the new puck’s development. Murdoch may have approved it, but not many people outside of Fox headquarters did. In fact, there were warning signs this new puck was going to end up in the Hockey Hall of Shame twenty years later. For one thing, a typical puck only lasted about 10 minutes on the ice, because they would be constantly being shot into the crowd, so about 30 FoxTrax pucks had to be ready to use each game. Considering this was a brand new innovation, I can’t imagine those things coming cheaper than regular pucks, so Fox must have spent a small fortune on these gadgets. The other problem was that the blue glow was difficult to see against the white ice, which was kinda the purpose of the whole premise of the FoxTrax puck.
The FoxTrax puck only lasted about two years, and it was last used during Game One of the 1998 Cup Final. The NHL sold its broadcast rights to ABC for the 1998-99 season, and the Glow Puck was never seen again. We likely won’t be as lucky with Trump.